E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
A male sweetheart who follows the object of his affections. A word very common among servants. Mistresses say to female servants, I allow no followersi.e. I do not allow men to come into my house to see you. Also a disciple, a partisan.
The pretty neat servant-maids had their choice of desirable followers.E. C. Gaskell: Cranford, chap. iii. p. 53.